VREF helps Donald Trump Value his Aging Air Fleet
His Boeing 757 jet, often referred to as Trump Force One, has received the full rich-and-famous lifestyle treatment; The Washington Post even queried whether it was better than Air Force One.
One of Mr. Trump’s helicopters has gotten similar coverage; an interior renovation made CNBC’s “Secret Lives of the Super Rich” in a segment entitled “Pimp My Chopper.”
A close look at Mr. Trump’s two airplanes — the 757 and a smaller jet used on the campaign trail — and three helicopters, however, suggests that their value rests chiefly in their marketing potential, with the Trump stamp of status masking the fleet’s age.
Four of the five aircraft are more than 20 years old, a rarity for most billionaires. The exception is a 19-year-old Cessna 750 Citation X — the only one of the five without the Trump name painted on it in large letters. The smaller plane was grounded last week after The New York Times reported that its registration had expired in January. It is now cleared to fly again, according to the F.A.A.
Most people who own aircraft do not have more than one or two. Even those who can afford to own planes often lease or charter them instead, offering a layer of ease and anonymity. But anonymity is not Mr. Trump’s style. The Boeing, built in 1991 to seat roughly 200 people, is Mr. Trump’s favorite flying toy, he said in an interview on Saturday. The jet, which once did duty with a commercial airline in Mexico in the 1990s, has been famously renovated. It has a bedroom; the fixtures are brushed with 24-karat gold; and the toilet seats were reupholstered with Edelman leather, which also graces the Eames chairs in Ivanka Trump’s den.
“It’s like a new plane,” Mr. Trump said in a documentary that showed off some of the renovations. “The plane is very much an extension of the Trump brand.”
While the 757 might seem like an odd choice for a man who puts his net worth at $11 billion, and, records show, does not use the plane much to travel abroad, Mr. Trump has cited it and his other planes as proof of how he gets good value for his money. In the 1980s, for example, he paid $8 million to buy a 1968 Boeing 727 from a financially troubled Texas company, Diamond Shamrock, according to his book “The Art of the Deal.” Mr. Trump said a smaller Gulfstream jet would have cost more than twice as much.
“It was a little more plane than I needed,” he wrote, “but I find it hard to resist a good deal when the opportunity presents itself.”
In the interview on Saturday, Mr. Trump said he did not own the five aircraft to burnish his brand, but agreed that the fleet had “promotional value.” He added that he could get by without owning a Boeing 757 but it was a “great luxury to have.”
Air travel is one of the largest expenses of Mr. Trump’s Republican presidential campaign: A company he owns has charged the campaign approximately $3.7 million in travel costs since he announced his candidacy in June 2015. Using the 757 does not help keep costs down: It guzzles fuel and costs thousands of dollars an hour to fly, more than private planes being used to shuttle other presidential candidates. Still, Mr. Trump has used it to crisscross the country, sometimes with just a small group of people aboard.
The Boeing also weighs more than 100,000 pounds, making it too heavy to land at many smaller airports, including one at Teterboro, N.J., the airport of choice for wealthy New Yorkers like Mr. Trump. Instead it must fly in and out of La Guardia Airport in Queens, which Mr. Trump, and others, have likened to what one might find in a third world country. La Guardia does offer a marketing perk: The 757 can often be seen at the airport, a billboard on wheels.